14:29 PM

Bellevue University's Kaylene Powell wins awards for novel

Meet ESL Program Director Kaylene Powell. She’s worked at Bellevue University since April of 2015, first in the Writing Center and now in a teaching position.

Powell was recently awarded a 2020 honorable mention for Best Historical Fiction in the Eric Hoffer Awards and was selected as a finalist for the historical fiction prize in the Next Gen Indie Awards for her book “The Voice of Melody.”

Powell participated in a question and answer interview to discuss her first published book.

Q: What is “The Voice of Melody” about?

“‘The Voice of Melody’ is the retelling of an old and true story from a different point of view. In 1820, a ship named the Essex was rammed and sunk in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by an angry sperm whale. Of the 20 men then sailing on the ship, after 93 days, eight remained alive. One of those men came home and wrote (with the help of a ghost writer) his memoir about what they endured. His son, years later, loaned a copy of that memoir to a young, first-time whaler named Herman Melville. And the reading of that memoir inspired Melville to write his own masterpiece.

‘The Voice of Melody’ is a work of ‘faction’ - literary historical fiction based on as many facts as I could find with my embellishments in the gaps, retelling the story of that whaleman and his family, but from his wife and daughters' points of view. I wanted to explore the story from a different angle and give the women of history a voice to ‘speak’ to us once more about their own experiences. It is a novel filled with experiential language, written in the first person present tense, and allowing the reader to relive history with the characters, being drawn into their world and their family, covering 50 years of their family history. As such, it is a fitting read for both lovers of inspiring fiction, as well as lovers of historical nonfiction and biographies.”

Q: Do you have any other published work? Are you currently working on anything?

“This was my first published full-length novel/book, apart from some textbook projects I've authored. Very soon in the future, my next book, ‘Bamboo in Mist,’ should be finalized by the publishers and released later this year. It is a part-academic, part-experiential look at Chinese Spirituality in a way that can educate non-Chinese people to gather an emic perspective on the topic. Since I lived and worked in mainland China for eight-plus years, I was honored to help spearhead the project. I am currently working on two other manuscripts-in-progress. One is a poetry collection and the other is my memoir. I hope to finish drafting both by the end of this summer/year and look toward publishing them (and other works) in the future. I have three novellas written in past years that I would like to further refine and finally publish in a collection as well.”

Q: What was the writing process like (did it take a while to complete, etc.)?

“The writing process was truly amazing. I went to see a movie related to this story and was so moved by the movie that I wanted to learn more. That led me to several weeks of research in my spare time. And then, I began to draft. I was working at the Bellevue University Writing Center at the time and had a standard hour lunch break. So I bought a notebook, a pencil and a good eraser, and I set to work. Every working day for four months straight, I sat in the library commons, ate my lunch, and poured out what I heard in my head into that notebook. Part of a second notebook was necessary, and I put in some time over the weekends at home, too. I started drafting on April 4 and finished drafting on August 4 (2016).”

Q: What does it mean to you to be awarded a 2020 honorable mention for Best Historical Fiction in the Eric Hoffer Awards and being selected as a finalist for the historical fiction prize in the Next Gen Indie Awards?

“Receiving these awards is an incredibly rewarding thing for me. Lots of people would expect me to be partial to my own book and gush about how wonderful it is simply based on my own bias. I recognize that my writing voice and style may not be for everyone, and I intentionally set out to write a book that didn't follow the patterns of ‘cookie-cutter fiction’ as I call it. Writing it was so fulfilling, and seeing it finally published was so fulfilling. And now knowing that more people may have a chance to hear about it and read it and enjoy it, especially during the bicentennial year of the ship's sinking, due to the connection with these awards, brings me greater joy.”

Copies in both print and Kindle formats are available through Amazon, but those interested in a personally signed print copy for yourself or as a gift for a loved one may also contact me directly at kaylenesvoice@gmail.com to place a custom order.

Click here to check out a recent article on Kaylene from the Bellevue Leader